A brilliant winter of hurling wrapped up Sunday as UL won the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup final in Mallow. The cup remains in Limerick for the fourth year on the trot, as a UL team studded with intercounty stars marched to victory over DCU. Here are five of the big talking points from the competition, as the nation's best university hurlers fully return to intercounty hurling.
Jason Forde is lined up for a breakthrough year
The stand-out performer of the 2018 Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup was certainly Jason Forde of Silvermines, who looks ready to make good on the brilliant potential he's shown for Tipperary in recent years. The reigning GAA hurler of the week, Forde landed an astounding 1-10 as UL won Saturday's final by 6 points. This all bodes well for Tipp manager Michael Ryan. Tipp's two forward lines look especially fearsome with Forde and UL teammate John McGrath in form, on top of Bubbles, Callanan, et al.
Tony Kelly and John McGrath are kings of the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup
A lot of important things happen in a college student's life. Tony Kelly and John McGrath have had sterling careers with UL, and amazingly bookended a Higher Education hurling career that began with a 2015 winner's medal with a winner's medal in 2018. A lot has changed for Kelly and McGrath since that 2015 campaign when UL beat WIT in a replay. McGrath has won an All-Ireland with Tipp. TK took his club Ballyea to the brink of an unlikely club All-Ireland success. Both were motoring for UL this winter as each added a second Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup medal to an already bulging medal cabinet.
That said, their teammate Davy Fitzgerald bore the brunt of the punishment in the final.
Dublin hurling can take heart
As Pat Gilroy attempts to rebuild Dublin hurling from the groun up, he'll find some solace in the performance of the Dublin universities across this year's Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon campaign. In a competition traditionally dominated by Munster universities, this year threw up a highly unlikely all-Dublin semifinal pairing. In particular, Na Fianna's Donal Burke impressed, finishing Saturday's final with 0-9 points after scoring 1-10 in the semifinal. 10 of the 30 hurlers involved in the DIT-DCU semifinal were from Dublin and they will have all benefitted from involvement in the business end of this competition.
More growth from IT Carlow
No doubt DJ Carey will be ruing the fact that his IT Carlow team fell just short of a second consecutive Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup final but he has clearly consolidated on past successes. A second successive final would have meant defeating two of the Limerick juggernauts in the competition and while there's some consolation in losing to the beaten finalist, IT Carlow did claim a major scalp by beating LIT in the quarterfinal stage. IT Carlow lack the intercounty pedigree of many of the aristocrats in this competition but Carey has turned them into a regular contender. No mean feat for a college that has never won this brilliant competition.
Padraig Walsh brings silverware home for Maynooth
Not strictly a Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup note, but Maynooth deserve some credit for their win over Ulster University in in the weekend's Electric Ireland Ryan Cup. Captain Walsh pulled all the strings as Maynooth managed a 16 victory over their Ulster rivals. Walsh will now head back into Kilkenny team bursting with confidence following a huge win over Tipp at the weekend.
The Electric Ireland Sigerson, Fitzgibbon and Higher Education Championships. Taking rivalries to the next level. #FirstClassRivals